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Balancing school, dance an art of its own: Okanagan trio

Three Kelowna-area Grade 12 students honoured to represent Canada in international competition

Three high school seniors from the Kelowna-area say balancing life and dance is a challenge, but when you love something, you make it work. And Savannah Goncalves, 17, Kathryn McKay, 17, and Sunny Sokolowski, 16, have found their stride.

The dancers, who practise out of the Lake Country School of Dance (LCSD), will represent Canada at the International Dance Organization (IDO) World Ballet and Jazz Championships near Warsaw, Poland.

Goncalves, a Grade 12 student at Okanagan Mission Secondary, said the trio’s main goal is to secure gold at the IDO, which is considered the Olympics of dance.

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Training is no walk in the park for the dedicated dancers with nearly 25 years of experience between the three of them. While many teenagers are soaking up summer’s rays on one of the Okanagan’s many beaches, Goncalves, McKay and Sokolowski are training and rehearsing, and when they’re not training, they’re travelling between LCSD and Vancouver to train with Team Canada.

“On choreography days, we’re dancing four to five hours on each piece a day for like a week,” Goncalves said. “Now that all our choreo is set, we’re going to Vancouver every other Sunday and driving back.”

But to be able to represent the country and learn a variety of styles from the some of British Columbia’s finest dancers is worth it, they said.

Team Canada consists of two groups of dancers; one from B.C. and another from Alberta. The LCSD students tried out in October 2018 and learned later that month they had been accepted. Now, almost a year later, they are putting the finishing touches on performances as they prepare to take the world stage on Dec. 1-9, 2019.

With school right around the corner, the dancers realize their schedules are going to get more hectic—especially with this being their senior year.

“Balancing school and dance is difficult,” straight-A Kelowna Secondary School student Sokolowski said. “You have to be self-motivated and there are a lot of late nights.”

“Our school district doesn’t recognize dancers as athletes,” Goncalves said. “At our school, we don’t get any support blocks, we just have to do it on our own.”

The three agreed, their passion leads to a lot of early mornings and late nights. But ultimately, this is just the beginning.

As this is the trio’s last year of competitive dance with their school, they are looking toward the future.

The girls are planning on moving to Vancouver next year to dance for a company together, while Sokolowski has his eye on Los Angeles, where he wants to pursue commercial work.

Each dancer had a different path into the craft; McKay’s mother was a professional ballet dancer and she grew up around dance and the stage all her life, so it was an easy transition; Goncalves wanted to be a princess ballerina when she was just four years old; and Sokolowski needed something to put his wild childhood energy into, but then he fell in love with the stage.

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Sunny Sokolowski, 16, (from left) Kathryn McKay, 17, and Savannah Goncalves, 17, study dance at the Lake Country School of Dance as they prepare to compete with Team Canada at the ‘Olympics of Dance’ in Poland this December, 2019. (Caitlin Clow - Kelowna Capital News)
Savannah Goncalves (from left), Sunny Sokolowski and Kathryn McKay have nearly 25 years of dancing experience between the three of them. (Caitlin Clow - Kelowna Capital News)
The three dancers from the Kelowna area are also preparing themselves for the last year of high school. (Caitlin Clow - Kelowna Capital News)